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Rich Franklin believes Anderson Silva would have smashed him with or without steroids

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Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Before Anderson Silva had his bitter rivalry with Chael Sonnen, "The Spider" had a friendlier one with Rich Franklin.

Silva's longtime reign as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight titleholder began after he brutally finished Franklin at the UFC 64 event back in 2006. A year later, he did it once again, though this time it took him two rounds.

After Silva tested positive for steroids both before and after his UFC 183 fight against Nick Diaz (details), his legacy quickly came under fire. In addition, his reputation as a legit, clean champion took an instant hit as many began to wonder just how many of his UFC wins were obtained with the assistance of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

If you ask Rich, he isn't too certain that the outcomes of both of their fights would've have been any different, regardless if Silva was on PEDs or not. Because at the end of the day, Franklin still views Anderson as the better fighter on those violent nights.

From his conversation with The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting):

"To say that the thought didn't cross my mind, I would be lying. Even if he was [using] -- whether he was or wasn't -- I'm not sure it would have changed the outcome of the fights that I had with him. I don't want to be so bold as to say that, ‘you know, I think he was, and that's why I lost,' that's not what happened. Anderson was a better man that night and beat me. But yeah, you start thinking about that. If you start thinking about all the opponents that I've had that I've won or lost to that are associated with TRT at this point in time, and PEDs ... and so you start thinking about that kind of stuff. Yeah it makes you think a little bit."

If anything, Franklin feels bad for Silva on the heels of all the drama that ensued from his failed drug tests. He also doesn't think "The Spider" is a cheater who took the banned substances to gain an edge (he's not alone), but rather to return to action as quickly as possible.

"I don't know if this is the right reaction, but I feel bad for the guy. I would just say that, my gut reaction on the whole situation, is Anderson got hurt. He was looking to get back into competition as quickly as possible, resorted to using them. This is a guy -- and this is conjecture, this is not fact, I am not stating fact here, so don't quote me as factual -- but he probably used performance-enhancing drugs to speed up that process, to expedite things for him. And in that situation, he got caught. And I feel bad for him. I would like to think that's the story, and it wasn't the fact that he'd been using them his entire career. I don't know one way or the other, but just the thought of that happening to him, and that'll be kind of... like how in baseball, they had certain players that have asterisks by their names in the record books and stuff like that. This is going to be that blemish or that thing that he'll be remembered for. So, that was my reaction."

If all else fails, blame his team.

Silva's scheduled hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) was postponed and is set to be rescheduled for later this year.

As for Franklin, he is still not officially retired from fighting, but says his duties as Vice President for the Singapore-based promotion ONE Championship are keeping him too busy to think about competing at the moment.

If and when he returns, could a third and final fight against Silva be in the cards?

You know, for nostalgia's sake.